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Biden should not give cluster bombs to Ukraine. period

The US has been providing a constant flow of weapons and other military support in Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022. But the US is expected to announce on Friday that, for the first time, send cluster munitions to Kyiv. Sending these weapons will not only undermine much of the moral high ground the West has taken in the conflict, but will also threaten the safety of Ukrainian civilians. These costs would make any victory against Russian forces a pyrrhic one.

Created during World War II, essentially cluster munitions break into many smaller bombs — also known as submunitions or “bulbs” — in flight. This distinctive feature, and the fact that Kiev is asking for the type that can be used with howitzers or other ground-based rocket launchers, makes them particularly useful in Ukraine. A former commanding general of the US Army in Europe he told The Economist that “cluster munitions could suppress Russian fire from trenches and artillery, giving Ukraine more time to clear a path through the minefields.”

The same thing that makes cluster munitions so effective makes them a long-range threat where they are used.

But the very thing that makes cluster munitions so effective makes them a long-range threat where they are used. US arms manufacturers must ensure this less than 1% of their bulbs they remain unexploded before hitting the ground. But those that remain can essentially function as landmines, injuring or killing civilians who encounter them.

CNN reported in December that the US was weighing a request from Ukraine to supply cluster munitions. It was only in recent weeks that the Pentagon began to do so indicates that a decision was approachingincluded in testimony before Congress last month.

But while the US has not yet provided such weapons to Ukraine, Ukraine has still been using them. Kiev and Moscow had substantial stocks of them at the start of the war, and Russia in particular has been using them a lot, reducing their supply and killing hundreds (if not more) in the process. Cluster Munitions Coalitions, a disarmament group dedicated to controlling the use of such weapons, estimated in August that cluster munitions had already killed. almost 700 people in Ukraine

“Investigators could not establish whether all of the nearly 700 people killed by the munitions were civilians, as the status of some had not been reported, but said it was clear that the vast majority were non-combatants.” . The New York Times reported at the time.

Using cluster munitions in any theater is not worth the price.

A Human Rights Watch report released Thursday found that in retaking the city of Izium from Russia last year, the Ukrainian military used cluster munitions with devastating effect. These rocket attacks with cluster munitions “killed at least eight civilians and wounded 15 others.” said Human Rights Watch, but the “total number of civilians killed and injured in cluster munition attacks examined by Human Rights Watch is likely higher.” However, the Ukrainian Defense Minister denied in a letter to Human Rights Watch that any cluster munitions were used around Izium last year, despite evidence that Human Rights Watch had gathered and contemporary reports from the Times.

This high civilian toll is what cluster munitions are for prohibited by international law. The US, above all, is not a signatory of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Neither Russia nor Ukraine. But many NATO members are, and some Democrats in Congress support the arms export ban altogether, prompting the Biden administration to reach out last week lay the foundations between the allies to try to smooth things over.

It is true that the situation in Ukraine is a little different from most. This is not a case like that of Yemen, where Saudi Arabia it rained US-supplied cluster munitions for years. In Ukraine, the civilians who would be at risk are the very people Ukrainians are trying to protect. Any clean-up campaign will fall on Kiev to undertake once the war is over. But regardless of the promises Ukraine makes about how these weapons will be used, the use of cluster munitions in any theater is not worth it. This is a decision the Pentagon should rethink immediately, before even one of these weapons can be sent to the front lines.


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